On Tuesday, June 23, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 426, commonly known as the Hate Crimes Bill, and it now heads to Governor Brian Kemp’s desk for signature. The bill enhances penalties to a person convicted of a crime based on the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability. Among the penalty enhancements include a six to twelve-month sentence for a misdemeanor charge and a minimum two-year sentence for a felony conviction. HB 426 is sponsored by state Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula.

After a proposal from Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan to require annual collection of statistics on hate crimes was added to the bill, the Senate passed the bill by substitute 47-6. The House immediately agreed to the Senate substitute and passed 127-38.

Before members of the state legislature reconvened to resume session, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Korean-American Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta-Georgia, and the Chinese Business Association of Atlanta, released a joint statement of support for the passage of HB426. Additionally, more than 500 companies have signed onto a letter supporting passage of a hate crimes bill. The Gwinnett Chamber commends Speaker David Ralston, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, and the Gwinnett delegation for the bipartisan effort in passing this bill and sending it to Governor Kemp. We are hopeful that Governor Kemp will push this through the finish line by signing the legislation into law.

Furthermore, we appreciate everyone who played a role in the collective effort to get this legislation passed, from those who directly contacted their elected officials to those who joined as a co-signer in the PassHateCrimes initiative.

We recognize that the passage of this bill is an important step towards addressing injustice and protecting our rich and diverse workforce from targeted criminal behavior. The passage is a win for Georgia.

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